As we reported on August 6, 2010, the two California U.S. senators and several local House members signed a letter asking the Government Accountability Office to look into the management of the 2009 Station fire that burned 160,000 acres and killed two firefighters near Los Angeles. The Associated Press is reporting today that they have obtained a draft copy of the GAO report. Here is an excerpt from the AP article:
A draft report obtained by The Associated Press discloses conflicting accounts of why an air tanker was not summoned in the early hours of what turned out to be the largest wildfire in Los Angeles County history.
Critics have long said the U.S. Forest Service didn’t bring in enough aircraft and firefighters to quickly snuff the 2009 Station Fire in the Angeles National Forest. A nearby air tanker could have been called in shortly after the fire started, but the supervisor and the pilot provide different reasons why that didn’t happen.
“These decisions may be made with imperfect information and under severe time constraints, relying heavily on the professional judgment of those involved. It is not possible to know with certainty whether different decisions or actions would have resulted in a different outcome for the Station Fire,” the draft U.S. Government Accountability Office report concludes.
The report says the Forest Service needs to clear up foggy policies that could cause confusion when working with local firefighters.
In spite of the U.S. Forest Service’s November, 2009 report on the Angeles National Forest fire that found nothing to criticize about how the fire was managed in the first 46 hours, and further said that policies and procedures were followed, many knowledgeable former wildland firefighters have accused the USFS of under-staffing the fire during it’s early stages, and attacking the fire on the first night and the morning of the second day with strategy and tactics that were less than aggressive.
USFS releases Lessons Learned Report on Station fire
A few days ago the Wildfire Lessons Learned Center posted a copy of the Station Fire Lessons Learned Report, dated October, 2010, released more than two years after the fire. The two-year delay is probably due to the firefighter fatalities and the allegations of poor decisions made during the first 24 hours of the fire. If the allegations about the less than aggressive tactics, not using night flying helicopters the first night, and a several hour delay in dispatching air tankers the next morning are true, those decisions may have prevented the fire from being contained during the first 24 hours.
Some of the headlines from the Lessons Learned Report are below.
More information on Wildfire Today about the Station fire.